4 Ecom Brands Bridging the Gap between Digital and In-Store Experiences

If you didn’t already know that the consumer path to purchase is changing, here’s your proof: 67% of online shoppers admit to having recently made a purchase that involved multiple channels (Zendesk).

Today’s customer journey is a winding pathway of websites, social networks, mailboxes (snail and electronic), mobile apps and brick-and-mortar stores. According to Experian, 36% of US organizations interact with consumers in five or more channels – and if they’re smart, they’re connecting the dots between these interactions in strategic, cohesive ways.

Yet while retailers the world over are shifting increased budgets and attention to responsive design and mobile commerce, many are overlooking the evolution of one traditional yet highly critical piece of the multi-channel puzzle: in-store. Consider the following statistics:

  • The “mobile influence factor” (or effect of smartphones on in-store sales) on retail purchases will increase to $689 billion (or 19% of total store sales) by 2016 (Deloitte)

  • 51% of shoppers research online and purchase in store, 17% visit the store first and purchase online, while 32% research online, visit in store and return to purchase online (Mobify)

  • 45% of in-store consumers turn to social platforms on their mobile devices to influence their buying decisions (Social Media Today)

Has your business taken the necessary steps to bridge digital, mobile, social and real-world experiences? Here are 4 examples of brands leading the pack, and tips to help you get on their level.


Ecommerce orders referred from Pinterest increased by 79% in 2013 (Shopify) – something that major department store Nordstrom has clearly taken to heart. With nearly 5 million followers and 66 boards on Pinterest, Nordstrom leverages Pinterest as a bridge between its physical storefronts and digital presence. Not only does Nordstrom aggregate its most Pinned items onto a single board to increase awareness and exposure for its products, but it also clearly distinguishes these items in store with a “popular on Pinterest” tag.

Connecting Pinterest content and brick-and-mortar offerings establishes a seamless user experience across Nordstrom’s digital and physical channels, in addition to helping guide merchandising strategy. This has also led to a “Pinspiration” section on nordstrom.com, as well as an app to help salespeople match these popular Pinterest items with in-store inventory.

TIP: Don’t limit yourself to shares on a particular network – implement a variety of social sharing buttons on your site to allow consumers to syndicate products directly from your user experience. Better yet, prompt users to share after taking insightful actions, like making a purchase, to reveal the types of items that are not just creating interest, but driving actual revenue.

Dick’s Sporting Goods

The 2013 holiday season inspired Dick’s Sporting Goods to create an interactive, omni-channel shopping experience that keeps consumers filling their shopping carts across touchpoints. DSG successfully united all channels and devices into a single, cohesive user experience via personalized, curated “Gift Lockers.”

Users can add their favorite items to their individual gift lockers by browsing online, scanning catalogue QR codes, and even taking mobile photos of items in store. Social Login powers this omni-channel shopping experience by allowing consumers to easily login using their existing social accounts and effectively manage their lockers from any device, tying all user activity to a single social identity.

TIP: 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels (Monetate) – but doing this without a clear, single view of who your customers are is impossible. Leverage identity as a bridge across channels and devices by prompting consumers to verify their identities when logging in to your site or app. This sets the stage for you to create relevance across digital and physical touchpoints, with each interaction informing the next.

Sunglass Hut

Be honest – when was the last time you made a big purchase decision without consulting your friends or family? With 81% of people admitting that posts by friends on social media influence their purchase decisions (Forbes), Sunglass Hut sought to connect the dots between consumers’ in-store shopping experiences and social connections.

The eyewear retailer has added “Social Sun” stations to the majority of its store locations. Not only do these stations allow consumers to place orders on sunglasshut.com if they can’t find their perfect pair in-store, but it also lets shoppers take photos of themselves wearing the sunglasses. These photos can then be shared with friends via email or Facebook directly from the store for real-time peer feedback.

TIP: Allow your customers to rate and review their purchases on your site or app to generate conversations that impact consumers’ buying decisions. Customer reviews are trusted 12x more than marketing descriptions (Brick Marketing), so be sure to leverage these reviews in-store by highlighting highest rated products or “the review of the week” at your PoS.

Urban Hilton Weiner

South African retailer Urban Hilton Weiner took social commerce to a whole new level with its “Pay with a Selfie” campaign. The rules were simple: follow @UrbanSelfie on Twitter, take a “selfie” with your desired item in store, and tweet the photo to @UrbanSelfie using the hashtag #urbanselfie. Participants could then show their selfies at the register to receive $10 toward their purchase – and the shopper with the most retweeted selfie received an Urban Degree wardrobe worth $100!

TIP: Connect mobile, social and in-store by making each channel a key piece of a cohesive, gamified customer journey. Incentivize shoppers to move back and forth between channels and devices by acknowledging virtual activity with real-life rewards, prompting users to take part in an immersive shopping experience that builds engagement and loyalty.

As you can see, effectively bridging the gap between digital and in-store experiences is a challenge that requires some serious innovation. But for the brands that do it right, it can make all the difference between being just another stop during users’ shopping sprees, or the go-to retail destination for modern consumers.

For tips on how to build immersive user experiences across digital and real-world touchpoints, download our gamification white paper.

By Rachel Serpa